Chili Davis had a wonderful playing career (350 homers, 142 stolen bases, 1,372 RBI, and 2,380 hits is legit) and is also well-respected among coaching circles (he worked for the Dodgers, A’s, Red Sox and Cubs … those are smart teams), but if he gets another hitting coach gig in 2019, it’ll be his third team in as many years.
I won’t sit here and pretend that I was against his hiring from the beginning – I most certainly was not, and neither was the front office, which had gone out of its way to specifically target Davis. He was an impressive big leaguer and coach, with plenty of success and, at a minimum, his own, relatively unique philosophy about hitting. Right or wrong, zigging when everyone else is zagging, even if the zagging seems to be working, is like the call of the Sirens. Sometimes, you just can’t help yourself.
It just so happens that, in this case, the never-ending quest for the next competitive edge may have bitten the Cubs in the butt. Indeed, that’s probably why they’re going back to a familiar face in Anthony Iapoce, but I digress.
Chili Davis is no longer the hitting coach for the Chicago Cubs, and it’s time for everybody to move on. But before we do, it seems only right to share Davis’ perspective on the season and the change, if not only out of fairness, but also out of education. In other words, the Cubs say Davis wasn’t the right guy, but what does Davis think? As it turns out, he had quite a bit to say to the Sun-Times.
“I guess I need to make some adjustments in the way I deliver my message to the millennial players now,” Davis said, presumably talking about connecting with younger, developing players, many of whom regressed under his watch in 2018.
Davis went onto explain that despite being open to changing his delivery, however, he will *not* change his approach/philosophy, because he knows what he knows and he knows that what he brings to the table “is not wrong.” In fact, he even went as far as to say he’s not going to blame himself for what happened this season at all – he’s not blaming the Cubs either, mind you, he just thinks it didn’t quite work out.
That isn’t to say there wasn’t some suggestion of blame, though: “[R]egardless of who’s there [as the hitting coach], certain players there are going to have to make some adjustments, because the game’s changed, and pitchers are pitching them differently. They’re not pitching to launch angles and fly balls and all that anymore. They’re pitching away from that.”
Here’s where I actually agree with Davis, but perhaps with a caveat upfront: to quote Theo Epstein, launch angle is not a fad. It just isn’t. Hitting the ball in the air is where you can find your power, so long as you’re the right player to do it. But Davis’ point, that the game is constantly evolving, is correct. Perhaps it just hasn’t happened yet. Indeed, I can envision – in the near future – teams having trouble scoring as many runs as they used to by launching the ball into the air, because pitchers have found a way to mitigate against its effectiveness. But perhaps we’re just not there yet. Perhaps, it’s still time to take advantage of that available edge, before it’s neutralized, while staying vigilant and flexible for the next thing.
Ultimately, Davis may correctly sense what didn’t work out was a mere lack of connection with certain unspecified Cubs players. He says there were multiple players he didn’t connect with, and “I learned that the next situation I get in, before I say yes to a job, I need to make sure I know the personnel I’ll be dealing with in the clubhouse.”
I don’t think this is necessarily an indictment of anyone, but instead is just another way of describing the philosophical disconnects that clearly popped up this year. In hindsight, it seems like a number of the involved parties – not just Davis, but the front office and Joe Maddon, too – weren’t quite on the same page all season long.
Let’s hope the Cubs have better luck this time around with the new hitting coach. Read more at the Chicago Sun Times.